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09 Dec 2020

South Africa conducts National COVID-19 Antibody Survey (NCAS)

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
Press Release

South Africa conducts National COVID-19 Antibody Survey (NCAS)
 
Pretoria, Wednesday 9 December 2020 – The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), together with research partners, Epicentre, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS), and the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), is currently conducting Wave 1 of the National COVID-19 Antibody Survey (NCAS). This survey was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in September 2020 and the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Dr Blade Nzimande at the end of September this year.
 
The survey  aims to understand and generate a national estimate of what proportion of South Africans may have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2  (or COVID-19) virus, including those who may have been infected without knowing either due to being asymptomatic, having mild symptoms, or not being able to access testing facilities.  This data will help South Africa understand the spread of the virus, identify  factors driving infections, and further, to estimate the number of all individuals who have been previously infected with the virus including those who either were not tested or did not have any symptoms/signs that they were infected.  
 
The survey will include: • 19000 interviews with people over 12 years of age in each of the nine (9) provinces • Trained field teams will visit selected households and conduct interviews aimed at assessing the history of infection, exposure to contacts, co-morbidities, and practices such as hand washing and social distancing.  The interviews will not be longer than 20 minutes. • A qualified nurse (phlebotomist) will request a small blood sample from each respondent that will be tested for COVID-19 antibodies.   • 10% of the participants who live in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria will be asked to provide an additional blood sample to be tested to ascertain how the body responds to the COVID-19 virus. • The results will be linked to the information provided in the questionnaires to understand how COVID-19 is spread in communities.
 
Wave 1 of the survey is already underway and it is anticipated that it will be concluded later in the month.  
 
The second wave (Wave 2) will be conducted from January 2021 to February 2021.  In Wave 2, different households in the same areas will be visited in all provinces except in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria where the same households as in Wave 1 will be revisited.  
 
The survey team invites the participation of all the pre-selected households in this important and very necessary survey which will help inform South Africa’s response to the pandemic.  
 
The blood samples and data from the questionnaires will subsequently be analysed following which the results will be publicly released to the nation.
 
Similar surveys are being conducted globally to ascertain, more accurately, the impact of COVID-19 and infection rates.
 
The HSRC-led research consortium would like to request all the randomly pre-selected households to participate in this survey  in order to obtain more reliable  findings. The results  of the survey will be used to assist the government in both planning and development of the national response to the COVID-19 epidemic in the country. 

The survey will be rolled out as per the following schedule.  Media who are interested in joining the research teams should please contact Manusha Pillai on 082 389 3587 or mpillai@hsrc.ac.za to make arrangements.
 
About the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
 
The HSRC was established in 1968 as South Africa’s statutory research agency and has grown to become the largest dedicated research institute in the social sciences and humanities on the African continent, doing cutting-edge public research in areas that are crucial to development.
 
Our mandate is to inform the effective formulation and monitoring of government policy; to evaluate policy implementation; to stimulate public debate through the effective dissemination of research-based data and fact-based research results; to foster research collaboration; and to help build research capacity and infrastructure for the human sciences.  
 
The Council conducts large-scale, policy-relevant, social-scientific research for public sector users, nongovernmental organizations and international development agencies. Research activities and structures are closely aligned with South Africa’s national development priorities.
 
About Epicentre Epicentre was founded in 2001 and is an independent organisation that is committed to creating a positive impact on the health and wellness in South Africa. Epicentre aims to close the gap between unscreened, undiagnosed, and uncontrolled HIV & COVID-19 infections as well as other chronic diseases.
 
https://epicentre.org.za/
 
About the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) The National Institute for Communicable Diseases provides  reference microbiology, virology, epidemiology, surveillance and public health research to support the government’s response to communicable disease threats. The NICD serves as a resource of knowledge and expertise of communicable diseases to the South African Government, Southern African Development Community countries and the African continent. The institution assists in the planning of policies and programmes to support and respond to communicable diseases.
 
https://www.nicd.ac.za/  
 
About the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) was established in 1969 to conduct and fund health research, health innovation, development and research translation. The SAMRC focuses on the top ten causes of mortality, co-morbidities, disability and associated risk factors. The scope of research includes laboratory investigations, pre-clinical and clinical research, and public health studies.
 
https://www.samrc.ac.za/  
 
About the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) The National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) is the largest diagnostic pathology service in South Africa, with the responsibility of supporting the national and provincial health departments in the delivery of healthcare. The NHLS provides laboratory and related public health services to over 80% of the population through a national network of laboratories.
 
https://www.nhls.ac.za/  
 
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For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:  Manusha Pillai Mobile:  082 389 3587 Email: MPillai@hsrc.ac.za 

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